I first heard Tombs around the release of their second album ‘Path of Totality’ in 2011, and I was somewhat mesmerized. Their mix of black metal, hardcore, doom and post-punk was brilliant to say the least, and I felt an urgent need to hear more from this band. Since then the band has gone through yet another lineup change, guitarist / vocalist Mike Hill, the sole founding member at this point, and perhaps this latest change was exactly what the band needed. Once again released by Relapse Records, ‘Savage Gold’ is the third album by Tombs (not counting 2010’s rarities compilation ‘Fear is the Weapon’) and marks a significant change sonically.
The album opens strongly with the monstrous ‘Thanatos’, a dark, furious track that demands your attention with its pummeling force of rapid double bass drum attack and furious riffing. Second track ‘Portraits’ follows the same path of blast beat fury and almost but not quite black / death metal guitars and vocals, though it has much more emphasis on melody which you will find is a recurring theme throughout this album.
What first attracted me to the band was how they don’t belong in any genre. They’re a hardcore band that plays black metal, a black metal band that plays sludge and doom, you get the picture. Some have proclaimed this as their weak point on earlier releases, claiming them to be a band struggling to find their sound, but I found it to be their strong point. On ‘Savage Gold’ they have simplified their sound, toning down the post-metal-punk influences in change for a darker and more blackened sound. But their hardcore past shows itself here and there and the overall sound has a lot more punk feel to it.
But Tombs also knows well how to create an ominous mood of doom, as shown on songs like ‘Deathtripper’ and ‘Severed Lives’. Two songs that gives the album a little breathing room the break neck pace and takes you through a darker and more ambient territory. The filtered, monotone and at times hushed vocals and droning background feedback creates an atmosphere that fits the band very well and I wish that vibe was more prominent on this album.
‘Edge of Darkness’, one of the albums heaviest, things takes off with brutal, almost Entombed-like riffing and shows you don’t have to be overly technical to be both heavy and interesting. In fact, most of Tombs´ technical strength lies with drummer Andrew Hernandez II, who while not showing off definitely shows skills on the faster tracks with interesting breaks and tight, steady blast beats that never loses intensity.
After the aforementioned gloomy ‘Severed Lives’ lets you catch your breath, powerful closer ‘Spiral’ comes crashing in and pounds you to the ground and rips you a new one before leaving you in a fading dark ambience. Recorded with death metal titan Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel) ‘Savage Gold’ shows a band revitalized, tighter and more focused band. Solid, razor sharp production akin more to metal than the warm sweeping sound of earlier releases.
Cleverly mixed with each track flowing into the next this doesn’t feel like an hour-long album. The balance between the fast and brutal and the more slow paced makes for great dynamics and makes it a whole lot more interesting than your average corpse paint wearing black metal outfit, but then again its not really black metal is it?
The album feels like a natural progression from ‘Path of Totality’, a consciously more metal release that shows that Tombs is a force to be reckoned with in the future. All in all a good album with good, diverse songwriting. If you wanna call it black metal then go ahead, there’s definitely a prominent blackened sound at the forefront of Tombs but look closer and there’s so much going on under the surface. This is not an album for the average headbanger, it demands your full attention if you want to get the full feel of it. I feel like I did just that and I strongly recommend you try too.